PM says no to de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - CANADA -

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has closed the door on de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing il­licit drugs to com­bat a na­tional over­dose cri­sis but Bri­tish Columbia’s ad­dic­tions min­is­ter says un­prece­dented deaths are a “wake-up call’’ to re­con­sider that stance.

Trudeau said de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion is not the ap­proach Canada will take to deal with deadly over­doses of­ten in­volv­ing the opi­oid fen­tanyl.

“We are mak­ing head­way on this and in­deed the cri­sis con­tin­ues and in­deed spreads across the coun­try but we are not look­ing at le­gal­iz­ing any other drugs than mar­i­juana for the time be­ing,’’ Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day at the end of a cau­cus meet­ing in Kelowna, B.C.

Hours ear­lier, the BC Coroners Ser­vice re­leased statis­tics say­ing fen­tanyl has been de­tected in 81 per cent of il­licit drug deaths in the prov­ince so far this year — an in­crease of 143 per cent over the same pe­riod in 2016.

In most cases, the syn­thetic opi­oid was com­bined with other drugs in­clud­ing co­caine, heroin and metham­phetamine, the ser­vice said.

Trudeau said Canada is tack­ling the over­dose is­sue through a broad range of ac­tions in­clud­ing “bor­der con­trols, the in­spec­tion of small pack­ages, by work­ing with our part­ners, whether it be the United States or China, by en­sur­ing that all lev­els of gov­ern­ment, pro­vin­cial, mu­nic­i­pal and fed­eral are work­ing to­gether.’’

Judy Darcy, Bri­tish Columbia’s min­is­ter of men­tal health and ad­dic­tions, said crim­i­nal­iz­ing peo­ple for hav­ing lim­ited amounts of drugs for their own use in­stead of pro­vid­ing treat­ment puts them at risk of fa­tally over­dos­ing.

“I think we need to have this con­ver­sa­tion in this coun­try,’’ she said of de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing small amounts of drugs such as heroin. “Some­times gov­ern­ments need to be pushed.’’

Darcy said de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion would go a long way in des­tig­ma­tiz­ing sub­stance use be­cause shame of­ten bars peo­ple from get­ting treat­ment or even us­ing su­per­vised con­sump­tion sites where staff have ac­cess to over­dose-re­vers­ing med­i­ca­tion.

“If this over­dose cri­sis is not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is,’’ she said. “Not treat­ing ad­dic­tion the way we would any other chronic con­di­tion clearly is not work­ing.’’

Darcy said fed­eral gov­ern­ment poli­cies have al­lowed Van­cou­ver to open North Amer­ica’s only in­jectable heroin clinic for chronic sub­stance users who have failed with other treat­ment op­tions, and now de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion must be con­sid­ered.


Justin Trudeau

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